The Lancashire police are facing increased pressure for an external review in the Nicola Bulley case after two dog walkers found her body just a mile down the river from where she went missing last month.
The failure by the investigators to recover the body despite 23 days of extensive search has positioned the Lancashire police in the line of public fury. They are also being criticised for disclosing personal information regarding Bulley’s menopause and alcohol consumption.
A former Scotland Yard detective questioned their search strategy as he mounted an attack on the investigators.
“The bottom line is Lancashire Police and all their experts and all their doctrines did not find Nicola,” Peter Bleksley told Sky News.
“Two people walking along a river bank did.”
Former detective chief inspector Martyn Underhill demanded answers from the Lancashire Police about its media strategy and search.
“These are crucial issues that go to public confidence. I may well be totally wrong and Lancashire might be completely vindicated. But I have never known a force to be so reluctant to seek external help – the Met and other forces all offered. The home secretary must get to the bottom of it,” Mr Underhill in an interview with The Times.
“The home secretary must get to the bottom of it.”
He is not the only former police official demanding an independent inquiry into police investigation, decision-making, and “poor communication strategy”.
Nusrit Mehtab, a former Metropolitan Police superintendent also said that “some serious questions have to be asked about Lancashire Police’s decision-making”.
“If indeed that is Nicola, then how did they miss that? There were three searches and even a private search as well,” she told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
“They didn’t share that information with this specialist search team that they brought in about the vulnerabilities, and yet they shared that information with the wider public.”
The two dog walkers informed the authorities last Sunday after they spotted the body on an unremarkable stretch of the river, just past a slight bend, close to where a tree had fallen on its side with branches and undergrowth partially submerged.
The same stretch of water has been searched both by the police and a specialist company since the mother of two’s disappearance, with nothing being found as speculation in the case hit fever pitch and amateur sleuths travelled to St Michael’s on Wyre in droves.
Underwater search expert Peter Faulding, whose private company was called in by Ms Bulley’s family to help find her, found no trace of a body in the section of river they searched.
He defended his efforts in several television appearances on Monday, suggesting that the body may have not been found because it was “in the reeds”.
Meanwhile, Downing Street declined to comment on the possibility of an independent external review of Lancashire Police and its handling of the Nicola Bulley case.
The prime minister’s official spokesperson said: “You have heard the concerns of the prime minister before.
“He welcomed the fact there was an internal investigation, I think the first step is to allow that to take place and see what the findings are, so I am not going to comment before that.
“We think it is appropriate that this investigation is taking place.
“We will wait and see what the findings of that are before commenting further on the investigation, given it is a live case.”